The thing that I remember most about Junior High is my fear of forgetting my locker combination. Fear because I had no idea what to do if I did forget it. I still remember it to this day: Two times around to the right and land on 22 on the third time around, back to 8 and right to 11. See? I still remember. It’s amazing how the simple emotion of fear can cement something as banal as a locker combination into one’s long-term memory. There forever. When I’m old I may lose all my wits, but I will never forget my locker combination.
I liked a boy named Tom Finella when I was in the Eighth Grade. In the Ninth, I liked Jack Dececio. I guess I had a thing for the Italians. Both boys were short like me. One gave me his Ninth Grade pin. The other was afraid of me.
Then there were the electives. Mine were typing, cooking and sewing. I would have rather taken auto repair and wood shop, but in those days, girls just were not allowed.
Typing class was a nightmare. I managed to crank out 50 words per minute on a battle-axe manual typewriter . You had to physically pull the handle all the way over to the left when the carriage was as far right as it would go. It was Herculean. To make an imprint on the paper you had to press as hard as you could manage and hope that your fingers didn’t end up in the metal machine workings between the keys. The worst part was the ridicule. I was short and my feet dangled from the chair. In the middle of class, as we would be hammering away on “Dad-ate-a-shad-salad,” the teacher would trot over to me holding a wooden box and place it under my feet. A thousand horrors. Everyone would laugh. David Pobjoy would call me “Stump,” and so it went. Typing class was a daily humiliation.
Cooking class was better. I managed to get in the same class as my friends. There we would all assemble in our little kitchen replicas making whatever was on Miss Westfall’s menu that day. The bad par
t of the whole undertaking was eating what we cooked. We had to consume it all. Usually we were late to the next class because we weren’t done eating yet. I still remember having to consume baking soda biscuits sans the baking soda because someone had forgotten to put it in.
Sewing was fun. I remember the teacher instructing us not to panic if we accidently impaled ourselves with the sewing machine needle. Thankfully I never had to follow those instructions.
At the end of the class, we were supposed to put our unfinished sewing projects in one of the “Tote Trays” for storage during the night. Smart students, though, hid their projects under their coats and took them home to finish. I would take mine to Mrs. Grillo, the mother of my best friend, to remake for me. Mrs. Grillo was a professional seamstress. Without her I would have failed the class.
In Junior High, I had a penchant for mischief. One day in band class the teacher stepped out of the classroom for a minute. Everyone went wild playing their instruments in a crazy cacophony of bad notes. I played my instrument, the piano, with my rear end until the teacher re-entered the classroom and caught me in the act. I was sent to the “Social Adjustment” room to be reprogrammed into behaving.
My favorite part of Junior High was the noon movie where we could pay a nickel and watch movies like “The Blob” and “Herbie the Love Bug” for 30 minutes at a time. Someone’s dad collected round metal slugs, and his daughter would supply us with our noon movie “money” so we didn’t have to actually pay.
Thankfully, I lived through Junior High with all of its challenges, and my teachers lived through me. I actually recall learning very little. I am of the opinion that raging hormones and general education are two ships that should never cross in the night. Hence, Junior High was primarily an exercise in socialization — nothing more.